Match report

Merthyr 1 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 08/01/2005   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

The entire concept of Chinese Whispers is based on the principle that small changes can make a substantial difference. From the phrase Fred´s got a Greyhound´ it only takes a few minor tweaks´ to move through Fred´s got a grey dog´‚ Fred´s dog is dirty´ to Fred´s a dirty dog´. Likewise: I think‚ therefore I am´‚ if adjusted intentionally‚ or simply misheard‚ could suddenly become I´m pink‚ therefore I´m spam´‚ which though it just about makes sense‚ is hardly the cornerstone of a great philosophy. Such were my thoughts as the miles rumbled under the wheels on the M5 heading for Merthyr. The difference that a few miles can make to the disposition of the natives´ after crossing the bridge. A couple of miles into the Land of Song and all you´re likely to hear are racial insults and abuse from borderlanders who‚ insecure in their nationality‚ seem to think it is a defence of their birthright and ancestry to abuse the English‚ though they´re happy enough to eschew the League of Wales (or should that be League of Wails in view of the standard of football and the reaction it brings from neutral spectators?) and play in the English pyramid system. Travel on a few miles up into the valleys and the welcome is far more friendly from people who are just as proud of their heritage and happy to display just how amiable the Welsh Nation can be - just a handful of miles but a great change. And‚ since the turn of the year it seems as if the same tweaking´ might have made an enormous difference to the reason for that trip over The Severn - Tivvy Town. A solid gritty draw at second place Chippenham‚ three points against Bath City; but now the real test‚ Merthyr Tydfil. Top of the table‚ winners of the reverse fixture at Ladysmead earlier in the season; The Martyrs would have to be faced without at least one of the new faces...Paul Buckle being given the day off to attend to an earlier commitment elsewhere.

The home side‚ clearly eager to restore‚ or at least maintain‚ their leading margin at the top of the table after having had it reduced by a draw at Gloucester in their last game‚ were the brighter starters but it was still the 6th minute before they showed any sign of going for goal. A neat one - two following a throw in saw Chris Bale with a clear view of the Tiverton goal‚ fire in the first shot of the game but well wide. Those opening minutes saw The Yellows effectively pinned back into their own half - had it been the second half and had they been two goals in front‚ then no doubt they would have been accused of sitting back - and it wasn´t until the tenth minute that they got seriously near the Merthyr penalty area when Jamie Mudge did manage to poke a shot past the Martyrs post. By the quarter hour mark‚ Tivvy were beginning to get forward a bit more and when Steve Winter curled in a free kick from wide on the right that was headed out for a corner‚ the home defence looked decidedly shaky as they struggled to clear the kick. With the balance of play levelling out it was probably inevitable that the game should develop into a struggle to gain control of midfield. It was an interesting contest‚ if not particularly entertaining. Former Tivvy Taff´ Chris Holloway did for the Martyrs just what he had done for Tiverton when he was with us. Hustled and bustled‚ tried to be creative but failed - and that was in no small part due to the industry of Messrs. Goff‚ Wills and Harvey who allowed their opponents little time and even less space.
With the battle raging in the central areas it was little surprise that goal attempts became conspicuous by their absence and if the deadlock were to be broken it was almost certain to come from a set piece; and even they were as rare as the proverbial Rocking-horse Manure´. The Yellows came closest to wrapping the ball in the mesh in the 31st minute when from a left wing corner swung in by Winter‚ Walker - or was it Rudge‚ or even somebody else‚ it was so crowded - saw their goalbound effort cleared off the line by Jon Holloway‚ who a couple of minutes later collected the first yellow card of the afternoon for a foul that left Kurt Nogan in a shin clutching heap in the centre circle. Interestingly the referee played on for the best part of two minutes as Tivvy retained possession and looked dangerous. Only when the ball eventually ran out for a goal kick did he make a bee-line for the culprit to issue the caution. Good shout! Then with the seconds ticking down to the break‚ Merthyr made a final effort to secure the half time lead. A concerted attack was eventually halted when Walker gave away a free kick just outside the penalty area. The wall did its job first time round but only managed to deflect the ball back to a Welsh boot. It was no problem as Mark Ovendale confidently claimed the second cross and sent Shaun Goff and Mudge away down the left to get caught as they reached the by-line and having to settle for a corner. Martyrs keeper Ashley Morris again looked dodgy´ as he flapped a fist at Winter´s inswinger‚ only managing to punch the ball for a second corner on the opposite side. This time a defender headed away and the referee blew as the ball flew - away.

Goalmouth incident may have been in short supply throughout the first half but there was little delay in action appearing following the interval. After the normal farcical kick off routine of touch sideways and hoof down into the corner for a throw in - though this time the angle wasn´t quite right and the ball went for a goal kick - Tivvy were back in possession with Kevin Wills making a weaving run at the centre of the Merthyr defence to unleash a thundering 25 yard shot that showed that Morris was certainly a shot stopper´ as he flicked the rising ball further up and over the bar for a corner. Shot stopper maybe - dealer with crosses definitely not. Chris Vinnicombe‚ playing through the pain barrier after removing support from a wrist broken in training earlier in the week‚ made the traditional trek to take the corner on the right. High‚ close in and curling....aided a little by the breeze´. Morris came‚ flapped‚ totally missed. There was no other touch and none was needed as the ball crept inside the far post to put Tivvy into the lead with just over a minute of the second half gone. Not that they stayed in front for long. Merthyr weren´t going to give up their table topping status without a fight and pushed straight up field winning a throw in on their right. Taken to Kris Whitcombe‚ who had made some lively runs from his wing back slot in the first half‚ the Merthyr man was allowed to run at the Tiverton defence and touch the ball forward to Craig Stein who in turn poked it low past Ovendale for the equaliser. It was Tiverton´s turn to attempt to bounce back and they almost did just that as Rob Cousins sent a long ball forward that found Kurt Nogan. One thing Kurt has shown in his short time at Tivvy is an ability to hold the ball under pressure before laying it off. Just so this time as Mudge was the recipient and burst through to find himself with only Morris to beat but the keeper managed to first stop Jamie´s shot and then grab the ball at the second attempt as Tivvy´s No. 1 scorer looked for the follow up.
A couple of minutes later‚ Holloway (C) embarked on a run that saw him turn round Nathan Rudge to force in a shot that Ovendale saved with his feet and then suddenly all the open play vanished again as the defences tightened up. Tivvy were the first to make a change‚ albeit forced by a knock to Walker. Harvey dropped deeper and his place in midfield was taken by Mike Booth who brought an injection of energy that saw Tivvy begin to edge in front in what had been a contest too close to call. It saw the visitors begin to push forward more but the Merthyr defence remained strong and resolute‚ perhaps they were determined to protect Morris.....With just over ten minutes to go Merthyr boss John Relish decided he had to freshen up his side. Holloway (J) was replaced at the centre of defence and Garry Shephard retired to the bench after leading (?) the Martyrs attack for 79 minutes. It made little difference. Tivvy continued to work hard defensively and looked comfortable at the back. Midfield was still tight and Mudge and Nogan always looked as if they might prise the home defence open on the break. Despite increasing their effort to find a way through there was no sight of the goal that would maintain Merthyr´s margin at the top of the table - their only on target effort coming from substitute Steve Williams as he rounded off some good build up play but was denied by Ovendale turning his shot out for a corner. And that was another plus´ to be drawn from the game. despite a comparative glut of such set pieces in the second half, the Tivvy defence never seemed threatened by them. Even when Merthyr won one in added time the heart only beat a couple of strokes faster, unlike earlier in the season when it would have been pounding twenty to the dozen in expectation of a late goal conceded. This time, Ovendale came, claimed and away went the ball upfield to give the referee the perfect opportunity to blow his final blast.

A good solid all round team performance. Something to build on. Tivvy are not safe yet by a long chalk but their chances of getting there have increased no end in the last few games. They look far more confident, but let´s not get carried away - they will not be safe until the figures say they are, remember last season? As for talk of play-offs....... one thing at a time. Fine to have the dream but at this stage that´s all it is. Then.....dreams have been known to come true.


Tiverton Town: .Mark Ovendale, Steve Winter, Chris Vinnicombe (David Steele, 88), Mike Walker (Mike Booth, 65), Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Kevin Wills, Iain Harvey, Kurt Nogan, Shaun Goff, James Mudge.

Subs not used: Jamie Densham, Tom Stocco, Paul Milsom.

Booked: Rudge.


Merthyr Tydfil: Ashley Morris, Kris Whitcombe, Paul Keddle, Andy York, Jon Holloway (Dale Griffiths, 78), Jeff Eckhardt, Chris Bale, Chris Holloway, Gary Shephard (Richard French, 79), Craig Steins, Dean Clarke (Danny Carter, 84).

Subs not used: Steve Williams, Lee Howells

Booked: Holloway. J, Keddle.


Att: 449


Referee: Mr. Steve Castle

This report ©2005 John Reidy






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